Happy Death Day: A Pre-screen Review

Around this time of year, several things are a given: 1) the leaves start to fall and I stop wearing flip-flops and start wearing real shoes to class, 2) I buckle down to study for midterms, and 3) ’tis the season for horror movies.

With Halloween just around the corner, most of the ads that have popped up for me on Wattpad or YouTube (the two most-used apps on my phone) lately have been of horror movies. Normally I’m not a huge fan of horror movies – I don’t do well with suspense or scaring myself half to death – but with ads of Happy Death Day bombarding me at every turn, when I got the chance to watch a free pre-screening of the budget horror movie with Princeton University, I jumped at the chance.

So what was Happy Death Day about?

The basic premise of the movie (as summarized by a quick Google search) is as follows:

Tree Gelbman is a blissfully self-centered collegian who wakes up on her birthday in the bed of a student named Carter. As the morning goes on, Tree gets the eerie feeling that she’s experienced the events of this day before. When a masked killer suddenly takes her life in a brutal attack, she once again magically wakes up in Carter’s dorm room unharmed. Now, the frightened young woman must relive the same day over and over until she figures out who murdered her.

So basically, a girl named Tree is killed again and again on her birthday, and each of the limited days that she re-lives, she has another chance to figure out who her murderer is.

In my opinion, for anyone who is looking for a good night out around Halloween with friends, this movie is perfect for you.

(As a word of warning, there will be spoilers in this review, so if you’re looking to keep the ending of the movie a surprise, I would advise to not read ahead. If you want my opinion though, carry on!)

As someone who isn’t usually a fan of horror movies, Happy Death Day had the appropriate balance between light and humorous, and gory and suspenseful. While the main plot of finding the mystery murderer wasn’t hugely riveting (FYI, the murderer is Tree’s roommate who kills her for the final time with a poisoned cupcake for – and I quote – being “a dumb bitch” and “sleeping with Greg”), the whole journey of finding the murderer was pretty entertaining. While the first half hour of the movie was mildly terrifying, once I got over the gory and graphic ways in which Tree could be killed by the masked murderer (think: stabbing, burning, and a car chase scene to say the least), there were lots of lighthearted scenes and sub-plots that lifted the mood and drew me in.

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One of my favorite scenes that I remember vividly from the movie is of the crap that Tree pulls after figuring out that she’s living life stuck on a loop. After having 1) spied on the wife of the professor that she’d had a love affair with, and 2) discovered that her one-time stalkerish-date Tim is a closet gay who watches gay porn, Tree decides to get naked in the streets for a day, knowing that no-one will remember anyway, since she’d just die at the end of the night and her day would be reset.

Since I’m not in a sorority (and sororities aren’t a huge part of the social scene at Princeton), it was hilarious to me, too, how sororities were presented in the movie. As a sorority girl, Tree and her “sisters” avoided carbs, were overtly two-faced with each other, and hooked-up willy-nilly with frat guys. Carter (the heart-throb in this movie whose bed Tree wakes up in again and again) is no match for Tree’s snarky-sorority girl persona, and I loved the dynamic between her too-cool-for-school attitude and his dorky, suck-up (and adorably respectful) mentality.

Despite clearly being a budget movie, and having several large plot holes and undeveloped story-lines, Happy Death Day left me feeling satisfied and entertained by the end of the movie. Yes, there were random – and sometimes important things – that were left unexplained (i.e. why does Tree keep reliving the same day over and over and not just die? Why should we care that Tree’s mum had the same birthday as her? Why do we care that Tree has a crappy relationship with her dad? Who the heck plots to kill their roommate just for sleeping with a guy you had a crush on and for being a “dumb bitch”?). On the whole, however, the movie was entertaining and was something that I enjoyed watching. (As an aside, I also never did guess that the murderer was the roommate until it was revealed to be her, so I guess the writers did a good job with concealing the true identity of the murderer for what was supposed to be a plot-twist reveal at the end?)

So while I don’t think Happy Death Day is a movie that I’d watch again, as a fun night out with friends, I’d definitely recommend that you check this out. There won’t be any Oscar winning performances here, but you’ll enjoy the ride.

– Vanessa

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